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Faces of the Gone    by Brad Parks order for
Faces of the Gone
by Brad Parks
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Brad Parks' Faces of the Gone won the Nero Award for Best American Mystery and the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel. Written by a former journalist, it stars young upper-middle-class Carter Ross, an investigative reporter with the Newark Eagle-Examiner.

Carter is assigned to look into a case involving four bodies (three men and a woman) found in a vacant lot, each shot in the back of the head. The author introduces readers to the killer, who calls himself the Director and looks forward to the free advertising the newspapers will give him. Carter's sidekick for the investigation is gay Facebook-obsessed intern Tommy Hernandez. They work the streets together.

Though the police quickly assume a link between these shootings and a tavern robbery, Carter doesn't buy it and follows his own leads. He dates a hooker and smokes pot with gangbangers, whatever it takes to get his story. He learns that all four victims were heroin dealers - in fact they all sold a ninety-nine percent pure brand called The Stuff - but in different parts of town. They also all did recent jail time.

Carter's love interest (perhaps lust interest would be more accurate) is city editor Tina Thompson - 'the thunderous ticking of her thirty-eight-year-old biological clock could be heard as far away as the Pine Barrens.' Fortunately he's sleeping on her couch the night the Director decides to tie up loose ends, with a bang. Which is when the local office of the National Drug Bureau steps in to take over the case - they advise Carter to back off.

What I most liked about Faces of the Gone was that its protagonist is keen and idealistic, rather than jaded and cynical, a refreshing change for the genre. This first novel is an impressive debut that left me wanting more of Carter Ross. Fortunately, I have the sequel, Eyes of the Innocent, at hand and am ready to dive right in.

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